Governor Ndeti urges UHC staff to stay as she pursues renewal of their contracts

Machakos governor Wavinya Ndeti at a past function at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi on April 4, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Machakos governor Wavinya Ndeti has asked Universal Health Coverage (UHC) staff to continue offering their services as she pledged to pursue renewal of their contacts.

Some of the staff have their contracts already expired while others are about to.

The governor’s move is meant to avert a crisis in the health sector as the UHC staff are offering critical services.

“I am asking you to continue offering services in your respective stations as we pursue the renewal of your contacts. Your services were still critically required,” the governor said.

"The national government, in consultation with the Council of Governors (CoG), is in the process of renewing contracts for UHC staff," the governor said through an internal memo dated May 12, 2023, and signed on her behalf by the Public Health chief officer, Rashid Kala.

The memo, which was addressed to all directors, medical superintendents and all Sub-County Medical Officers of Health (SCMOH) noted the process of renewing the contracts is at an advanced stage, and would soon be concluded.

"Kindly notify all the UHC staff in your facilities whose contacts have expired or are about to expire to continue discharging services as the matter is being sorted out," the memo which Standard Digital obtained a copy of further reads.

It was also copied to County Secretary and head of public service Muya Ndambuki, as well as Health CEC Daniel Yumbya.

Machakos was among the four counties where the UHC pilot programme was rolled out under the previous regime.

UHC is a World Health Organisation (WHO) programme, adopted my member states,  to ensure all people have access to the full range of quality health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship.

It covers the full continuum of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care across the life course.

The delivery of these services, according to WHO, requires health and care workers with an optimal skills mix at all levels of the health system, who are equitably distributed, adequately supported with access to quality assured products, and enjoying decent work.

Wavinya's swift action has effectively averted a looming crisis in the public health sector with alarm bells having been sounded by the local Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) through the local branch secretary general, Michael Saka.

In a statement, the nurses' union had warned of impending paralysis of health services in all public healthcare facilities due to shortage of personnel should the UHC staff be let go.

"On May 11, 2023, contracts of health workers under UHC came to an end with no official communication despite promises of renewal from both levels of government," the statement read.

On Thursday, Dr Yumbya who led nurses in a procession to mark the Nurses' Week, assured health workers that the county government is committed to improve their general welfare, including promotions.

"The governor recognizes your commitment to serve residents of Machakos and has directed us to immediately start effecting promotions of staff who have stagnated in the same job group for too long," Yumbya said.

The CEC said the county government is also working towards hiring additional healthcare personnel to ensure adequate staffing in healthcare facilities across the county.

The UHC programme in Kenya started in 2018 as a pilot in four counties, overseen by the Ministry of Health. The four were chosen because of high incidences of communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, maternal and child deaths as well as road accident-related injuries among others.

The UHC model adopted a two-phased approach. The first phase was expected to abolish all fees at the primary level (local health centres) and the secondary level (county referral) hospitals.

The second phase involved the enhancement of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to which contributions would be mandatory for all Kenyans above 18. The government would complement the scheme by paying for the poor.

The biggest challenge UHC has faced in Kenya is financing thanks to unpredictable revenue projections by the government. Financing the UHC using taxes has proven to be insufficient. This saw the UHC budget reduce from Sh50 billion in the 2019/2020 fiscal year to Sh47.7 billion in 2020/2021.